ASEAN Meeting: Marcos Jr. says to raise need to finalize COC on S. China Sea

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 10 2023 06:50 PM | Updated as of May 10 2023 07:55 PM

 Presidential Communications Office handout
Presidential Communications Office handout

MANILA — President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. aims to bring up the finalization of the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea during his attendance at the 42nd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Indonesia.

In a chance interview with reporters on Tuesday night, Marcos said the document is among the "solution of all of these problems."

It is important to raise the conclusion of the document "sooner rather than later because the tensions are increasing," he said.

“So yes, I will bring it up again because when we talk about – when we talk about the issues on the West Philippine Sea, South China Sea, hindi magkakalma ‘yan hanggang mayroon na tayong Code of Conduct,” Marcos said.

“Kaya paulit-ulit ko laging sinasabi ‘yan. In every forum I can find, sinasabi ko, 'Code of Conduct kailangan nating tapusin',” he added.

"You know, iba-ibang bansa ‘yan eh and everyone has a different agenda. But if we talk about it and with a common thought in mind, I think we will get there." 

Marcos said he is hoping the COC will reduce the possibility of miscalculations in the South China Sea, part of which is the West Philippine Sea.

A negotiation for the conclusion of the COC, however, will be separate from the ASEAN summit, he pointed out, keeping in mind why this has been stalled and how the parties could fix issues surrounding the negotiations.

“They negotiate in another way. So that’s not something that we will be doing here at this time. What we need to do is, 'Look, kung wala pa, ano ba talaga ang nagiging problema?'" he said.
“That’s what these meetings should be for. And I think, we’ll get to that point because everybody wants this to work, everybody wants to have a Code of Conduct. So what’s getting in the way, let’s talk about it," Marcos said. 

The ASEAN is a 10-member bloc composed of the Philippines, Myanmar, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The COC is envisioned to upgrade the ASEAN and China's 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea by having a pact to manage tensions in the waters where different parties have separate claims.

ASEAN and China completed the first reading of the proposed code between 2018 and 2019. It had been planned that the code would be mapped out by 2021, but the pandemic hindered negotiations among parties. 

China claims sovereignty over almost the entire sea. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have competing claims to parts of it.

A July 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled that China's claims have no legal basis.

Trillions of dollars worth of ship-borne trade passes through the waterway annually.

Of all the claimants, China has in recent years forced its stance most aggressively. 

-- With a report from Agence France-Presse


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